difference between manager and leader

What is the Difference Between Manager and Leader?

What is the difference between management and leadership? This is a regularly asked question amongst many industries, and it has been answered in as many different ways. Let’s look at what many experts agree is the main differences between the two titles.

In a sentence, a leader has people follow her, whereas a manager has people answer to her.

Personally, I feel it comes down to motivation, vision and communication.

Let me explain. In any organisation or group setting, there are individuals that other people seem to just gravitate toward. These people tend to have great motivation, a clear and positive vision and are very good at communicating.

This could be on the sports ground, the local interests club or in the boardroom.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is a common quote you may have heard previously about the difference between manager and leader; “Managers have subordinates, leaders have followers”.

Experts agree that those leaders with shining qualities are the ones who not only have a vision; they strive towards it, and get other people to ‘drink the kool aid’ so to speak.

Leaders tend to have charismatic personalities, are regularly positive and focussed on ensuring the people around them understand the vision and embrace it.

Whereas, managers tend to have a vision, and tell people to either agree with it, or get out.

In my opinion, a great manager also has leadership skills.  They are able to establish a vision within the overall goals of the organization, and encourage employees to work together as a unit to reach toward that vision.

Interestingly, whilst great managers have leadership skills, it doesn’t mean that all leaders are in a management role. I’m sure you have probably witnessed this yourself; a colleague who everyone, including their direct manager, probably follows, more than the other way around.

You can be both a manager and a leader, or one or the other. When you are in ‘management mode’ you are working towards the short term goals and objectives. When in ‘leadership mode’ you are envisioning a vision of the future, and laying out the groundwork of influencing others to join you in heading towards that future.

Just look at the original English meanings of the words manage and lead;

To manage means to handle, which implies a high degree of direct involvement.

To lead means to go before and prepare the way.

Managers supervise staff in the day-to-day operations of an organisation, whereas Leaders create change within organisations and inspire others towards greatness.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

– Peter Drucker

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

In an article about leadership qualities, titled 5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager, Jennifer Hill is quoted as stating that a leader has five unique qualities, which are;

  1. Listen more and speak less.
  2. Consensus is good but… direction and decisiveness create action.
  3. Anyone can identify a problem. A leader is part of the solution.
  4. Apologize publicly and gloat privately.
  5. Give the hard message.

7 Things Great Leaders Always Do (but Mere Managers Always Fear)

In an article on Inc.com, Bill Murphy Jr outlines seven differences that he sees between leaders and managers. They are;

  1. A great leader connects daily work with great goals. A mere manager focuses only on the short-term.
  1. A great leader thinks of people as people. A mere manager sees only titles or organizational charts.
  1. A great leader wants to earn respect. A mere manager wants to be liked.
  1. A real leader is thrilled when team members achieve great things. A mere manager is threatened.
  1. A great leader empowers people with honesty and transparency. A mere manager parcels out information as if it costs him personally.
  1. A great leader understands that if the team falls short, he is responsible. A mere manager blames the team.
  1. A great leader cares mainly about results. A mere manager is more concerned with process.

No matter what personality elements you feel make the difference between a leader and a manager, we tend to all strive towards becoming a leader.

When we were creating 6Q, I decided rather than call the user role for those who receive the employee engagement reports as ‘Managers’, rather we would call them ‘Leaders’. The way I see it is that if you are keen to collect feedback from your team, and run an open, honest and inclusive team, you are likely to be more on the leader end of the spectrum, rather than just a ‘mere manager’ as Bill Murphy Jr puts it.

In Summary

Here are a few personality traits that I see great leaders display in their work and interactions;

  1. Leaders give freely
  2. Leaders are open and transparent
  3. Leaders encourage others to do better
  4. Leaders take responsibility
  5. Leaders never give up

Good luck in being more of a leader, not a manager!

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